The Boston Seaport Hotel: An example of easy social media marketing

A couple of months ago I attended one of Mashable’s Social Media Day tweetups as the Boston Seaport Hotel. It was the first time I’d attended an event there and after I got there I realized why the social media savvy types chose that hotel. The function room was beautiful with a panoramic view of Boston Harbor across seen through expansive glass walls.

It wasn’t until later I went to their and found their Twitter and Facebook accounts. They do a good job of simple social media marketing. You’d be surprised how many hotels (and even luxury condo developments) don’t do social media marketing.

The Boston Seaport Hotel on Twitter: This is a textbook example of how easy it is to get a much-followed popular Twitter account. The account has 1,799 followers and their messaging is simple and direct marketing. What do you want when you visit a hotel Twitter account? You want to get the “flavor” of the place.

They have this in spades: you’ll see they are promoting their restaurant; they are promoting their memory foam and other pillows from their “pillow library” (with a link to their amenities web page); they are announcing food specials at their bar, TamoBar (which has its own Twitter page too). The point is – you get a sense of activity and hospitality.

The Boston Seaport on Facebook: This is still what I’d classify as a “plain vanilla” Facebook page, but it is active and fun. You’ll find photos of prepared dishes by a new chef here. They post photos from guests who’ve held wedding receptions as well. And they are generally “chatty” about company news. The page only has about 526 fans, so it’s not like they are a runaway train on Facebook. But their page does show what you want to see — their “Info” tab features a detailed list of hours of operation for their restaurant, bar and fitness center.

There are a few things they could do to make their social media really shine. For instance, their Twitter page could use a custom background (like a high-res picture of the hotel or view of Boston Harbor from a function room). I’d also add an info box on that custom background too (some description, details of amenities, phone numbers, etc.).

They could also use a custom landing page for their Facebook page — one built with static FBML, which can make a Facebook page look like a web page. This is a “clean slate” on which they can do anything.  Hotels should really be giving their visitors an “oh wow” moment when they land on Facebook. For example, look at what the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group do on their Facebook landing page.

But still – the Seaport Hotel does a great job, and it is proof that it’s not that hard to do social media marketing for a hotel.

Burritos and social media: How Boloco gets it right

One of the great things about social media and inbound marketing is the way it can build loyalty in ways traditional marketing and PR just can’t. It’s one thing to say you care about your customers — it’s another to demonstrate it every day on Facebook and Twitter.

Case in point is Boloco, a chain of burritos-n-more stores based in Boston. Started in 1997, Beloco has 17 locations in Boston and New England. Beloco’s home page is probably one of the best small company home pages I’ve ever seen; it is a masterpiece of simplicity. The site itself, however, is not simple — it is rich with information. It’s definitely worth a visit to see how a food business can do something unique and user friendly.

Boloco uses Facebook and Twitter to interact with customers, promote specific products, promote local charities and to reward loyalty in general. It does all of these very well.

On Twitter: Boloco has 3,732 followers and is listed by 300. The profile information says tweets are by the founder/CEO John Pepper and Boloco “mavens” (AKA other employees). Attaching a real-person name to a business Twitter account is always a good idea. I also love the full-screen-width photo they use a a background. A little high-quality photography goes a long way to making this Twitter account stand out.

What’s really interesting, though is how Boloco’s uses its Twitter account in a manner I classify as a “Reply Engine.”

Someone at Boloco is monitoring all the incoming tweets (@boloco messages) and probably any mentions of “Boloco” in anyone’s Tweets. Then … they reply to users. A lot. During a recent six-day period, their ratio of @ replies to promotional tweets was higher than 5:1 — for every tweet from them, there are 5 replies to customers. That’s probably the reverse ratio of most companies on Twitter.

And they are doing more than just saying “hi.” In some of the Tweets they are obviously responding to a complaining customer by adding “points” to their Boloco Cards (frequent visitor discount cards). How smart is that?

Their “promotional” tweets aren’t heavy handed either – they’ve tied a smoothie promotion with the Pan Mass Challenge, a charity bike ride for the Dana- Farber Cancer Institute. Beloco is donating 25 cents from every sale of their Cape Codder smoothie to a fund to give to riders.

On Facebook: Boloco has 4,538 fans on Facebook. Boloco uses Facebook as their goodwill embassador (while Twitter does the heavy lifting as a Reply Engine). Boloco does do some routine product promotion, too, but again it’s not too heavy handed.

A recent promotion shows how savvy they really are: In mid July Boloco began asking its Facebook page visitors and fans to “nominate” riders for an unofficial Boloco team for the Pan Mass Challenge bike-a-thon. Boloco then chose winners from those who got the most support. Boloco in turn is donating money to those riders (to help add to their pledge dollars). So they turned their Facebook page into a kind of nomination platform. This is a great way to both introduce people to the Boloco Facebook page and support a charity at the same time.

Here’s a snapshot from their Facebook on the PMC nomination winners:

Their Facebook does work as an advertising platform too. Boloco promotes its online and text ordering via a tab labeled “Bolocotogo” (see image above) and a banner ad. Here once again we find a clever use of a page built with FBML. This is just a repurposed graphic from their web page with links to online and text ordering. I hope everyone is getting the message that using FBML to make a custom page for your business Facebook account is something successful companies do.

And remember, all this clever social media usage stems from a place that sells burritos. So if they can do it, your retail/storefront businesses can do it too.

How to improve the Boston Herald’s Twitter page

The traditional media may be on life support, but it’s not dead – and it’s not going to die. That was the message of Steve Safran’s talk at the recent Social Media Day in Boston, and as a former journalist, I agree with that faintest of faint praises.

But some newspapers seem to be struggling with new social media tools.Take the Boston Herald’s Twitter page, for example. Here’s a major metropolitan area’s feisty, scrappy tabloid, and its Twitter page looks like an after thought. Because it is.

This sends a signal, and it’s not a good one: We don’t care about this, we don’t care about our product. That’s what’s called in the marketing world as “not good.”

Their competitor, the Boston Globe, has a Twitter presence under their Boston.com brand – see it here. The Globe has more than 16,000 followers, the Herald only has a little over 7,000. In other words, they’re getting creamed by the competition.

Here’s how to fix it.

1. Lose that standard background

That’s just an option picked from a set up menu. You can upload any background image you want. With access to award-winning photographers right there, in the building, why not use their work? Ask them to select something – they’ll jump at it. Better yet, design a custom background with subscription info. Here’s an article on how to do that.

2. What is with that grainy icon?

You can’t even see the word “Boston” clearly. This is your company’s image and its reduced to a smeared blob. Not the message you want to be sending.

3. Unhook it from Facebook.

All the Twitter links go back to Facebook … which link back to the Herald . Eliminate the middle man – link directly to your news pages (like the Globe does).

4. Make your tweets the headlines of your stories.

The Boston Herald writes great (and I mean GREAT) headlines. That’s all you need, trust me. Currently the paper is putting out tweets like this:

You read that right!: http://fb.me/Cf85z7P3

If I’m looking at a stream of Twitter messages, there is no way I know what that means. But here’s the headline of that story in the link:

Feds ordered to write $19M check to mobster

Guess which one is going to make me click?

5. Repeat your tweets as if you were CNN.

This isn’t my idea; it’s Guy Kawasaki’s idea, the founder of Alltop (a news aggregator site). Guy says repeating tweets at regular intervals – just like CNN Headline News – results in more hits to links than just “tweeting” it once. The current half-life of a post on Twitter is estimated to be less than three minutes. After 3 minutes … it’s dead and won’t get any more traffic. So be like CNN and rotate the top news items on a regular schedule.

6. Empower your editors to use Twitter.

If you think this is crazy – look at what your competition does. They have editors with their own Twitter accounts. They tweet about new stories – or even tease a breaking story as it goes live on their . It’s not like writing less than 140 characters takes a lot of time.

7. Start following other Twitter users!

I cannot emphasize how much goodwill and new followers this will generate. By not following anyone the paper is just being its own “old media” self: We speak, you peasants listen. Start by following local businesses. They’ll love you for it – no kidding. You get more followers … by following others. It’s that simple.

Phew. That’s all I can think of for now. Now, about your Facebook page … that’s for another post, another day.